Memo to those members of Tide Nation attending football games at Bryant-Denny Stadium: Nick Saban has spoken. And, as evidenced by the photo directly to the right, he’s hoppin’ mad.
OK, maybe not hoppin’ mad in the literal sense, but somewhat irked nonetheless. Or mildly perturbed. One of the two.
In the fourth quarter of Alabama’s romp over Arkansas Saturday, the Tide’s home field looked like, well, The U’s home field as fans made an early exit with yet another victory firmly in hand. A photo posted on Twitter by al.com‘s Michael Casagrande (@ByCasagrande) showed a whole helluva lot of fans dressed as empty seats in what was apparently an early mock run for some type of Halloween costume contest:
That scene left an impression on Saban. The coach, who has talked to his players about “playing for 60 minutes in the game and competing for 60 minutes in the game,” is of the impression that fans should do the same regardless of the score.
And if they’re not going to put in a full 60?
“Maybe if you’re not interested in doing that, you should let someone else go who would really like to go because I have a lot of people who want to go,” the coach said.
In fairness to the Tide’s rabid fan base, the home slate of the team they live and die for 24/7/365 hasn’t exactly been filled with either quality opposition or nail-biters. Alabama has played four home games this season: Colorado State, Ole Miss, Georgia State and Arkansas. Exiting the third quarter of those games, the Tide has been up on the scoreboard by a combined score of 123-9.
Aside from pleasing the head coach, what’s the incentive for hanging around and witnessing additional carnage?
If nothing more, Saban says, stay for the kids. Specifically, the recruits who are in attendance at the game and who may be swayed by the atmosphere — or lack thereof — in the stadiums they visit.
“We have lots of recruits there, we like to see an enthusiastic full stadium,” Saban said. “We have a beautiful stadium and one of the nicest venues in all of college football and I think we all should show our appreciation for it by staying and supporting our team for the whole game.”
And there you get to the root of Saban’s displeasure with those who bolt early. Recruiting is the life-blood of every football program, and nobody does it better than Saban & Company.
Saban uses every advantage he can on the field; the same goes for the recruiting trail. If the coach who’s won four BCS titles in his career sees something that could potentially harm what he continues to build in Tuscaloosa, he’s not going to sit on his hands and say nothing.
It’s up to the fans whether they want to heed the coach’s admonition. And, in that same vein, up to the athletic director to get rid of the Colorado States and Georgia States on the home slate, too.